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Wildcat AH1 Helicopter

The Wildcat is a multi-role helicopter operated by Naval Air Squadron 847 (NAS 847) Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) and the Army Air Corps (AAC) including (eventually, perhaps) 657 Squadron AAC of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW).

The Wildcat is designed and manufactured by AgustaWestland, who sell it as the AW159 Wildcat. The new aircraft replaces the ageing fleets of Lynx helicopters in British military service. They began being entered into service in late 2014 / early 2015.

Both NAS 847 and the Army Air Corps field the AH1 variant of the Wildcat, which is designed as a battlefield reconnaissance, troop transport, airborne command post and force protection platform. The Royal Navy also fields the Wildcat HMA (Helicopter Maritime Attack) variant in the anti-ship and anti-submarine role.

While it retains the basic underlying shape of the Lynx helicopters it replaces, the Wildcat AH1 features an array of sophisticated systems that result in a much more capable aircraft. These include:

  • 2 Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company (LHTEC) CTS800-4N engines providing improved lift and performance, allowing for operation at high altitude and in hot conditions
  • full authority digital engine control (FADEC)
  • new 4-bladed tail rotor
  • crashworthy crew and passenger seating, armoured crew seating
  • role-fit armoured cabin floor
  • engine infrared suppression (IRS) system
  • a fully digital cockpit integrates core avionics, communications and navigation systems and includes:
    • 4 x Smiths Industries SDS-5000 10 inch x 8 inch LCD integrated display units (IDU)
    • Thales Avionics secure communications control system (SCCS) featuring VHF/UHF SATURN and HF radios and Bowman radio functionality
    • integrated global positioning system (GPS) inertial navigation system
    • mission planning system (MPS)
  • Nose-mounted L3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical laser designator turret

Wildcat AH1s are fitted with an advanced defensive countermeasures package, namely the Selex HIDAS 15 (Helicopter integrated defensive aids system).

  • Radar Warning Receiver and Defensive Aids System Controller
  • Missile Warning System
  • Countermeasures Dispensing System (chaff and flare launcher)

Wildcat Special Forces?

At time of writing, there is no indication that AAC 657, which provides support to United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), has received the Wildcat AH1 or that are any firm plans for it to to do so. As far as is publically known, the squadron still operates Lynx AH7 / AH9A helicopters. The AH7s will be retired from service in July 2015 whereas the AH9As will stay in service, including with AAC 657, until 2018.

A 2012 news item reported that 657 would eventually receive a fleet of 8 Wildcats, configured as 'light assault helicopters' i.e. troop insertion and extraction.

Wildcat AH1 Specifications

Crew 3 (pilot, co-pilot & door gunner)
Cargo capacity 6 troops (+1 door gunner)
Maximum speed 157 knots
Range 420 nm
Max takeoff weight 6000 kg
Armament

1x 7.62mm GPMG
or 1x .50 cal HMG
pylon-mounted weapons


Wildcat AH1 helicopter
An Army Air Corps Wildcat AH1 in flight. Visible on the helicopter's nose is the L3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical laser designator turret. This is a steerable sensors package that includes an infrared and electro-optical camera. A laser designator in the turret can mark targets for Apache AH1 gunships.
Image by Corporal Kellie Williams, RLC © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2012 used under open government licence


Wildcat AH1 CHF
A Wildcat AH1 with 847 NAS, Commando Helicopter Force, flies in support of 3 Commando Brigade during an exercise, 2015. Note the M3M .50 calibre heavy machine gun mounted in the cabin doorway.
Image by L(Phot) JJ Massey © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2015 used under open government licence


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